The current Californian death metal scene is ripe with brutality-infested teens, off-the-curve musicians, and innovative minds. The non-homogenous members of Ripped to Shreds and Draghkar decided they hadn’t used enough riffs from their notebooks yet so far in 2018’s lifespan, so they also decided to demo Azath’s Malazan-infused death metal for us before New Year’s cusp. Luckily, the excessive output does not hinder these young lads’ material whatsoever.
As mentioned in the lead above, there must be something (or lack thereof) in California’s water supplies that fuels abrasive death metal; Azath’s lineup is absolutely stacked. Andrew Lee, praised heavily for his solo project Ripped to Shreds’ success earlier this year, plays bass and additional guitars for the group in question. Filling in the other guitar slot is an individual who runs with the tag “B.W.”, who also played on releases from Draghkar, Skullsmasher, and Grave Spirit this year. Finally, Alberta-native Derek Orthner runs the vocal gauntlet to complete Azath’s smashing trio force. The group also credits an individual by the name of “Vvornth” for the release’s percussion, but this is a reference to Bathory’s drum machine being credited by the same name. So, unless this was just a clever reference, we can assume Azath uses a drum machine. They will most likely remain a studio-only group for the coming future as Azath plays more towards a pet project for our aforementioned men. Nonetheless, each member brings their signature flair into the work to ultimately create something fresh and vibrant.
The aptly-titled Demo 2018 features a straightforward taste of Azath’s sound. Upon a handful of listens, two elements raise as prominent: ever-returning galloping riffs used as song building blocks, and a murky and present production.
These galloping riffs lend themselves to both Draghkar and Ripped to Shreds’ style, but I think the latter’s creator, Andrew Lee, is more responsible for this guitar flair. I’m hearing a fair bit of similarities between Ripped to Shreds’ debut LP 埋葬 and Azath’s demo, which mostly derives from these adventurous guitar scales used throughout the works. On Demo 2018, “Bonecaster” features a repeated block of the offending riff during its midpoint and again towards the track’s culmination. Furthermore, “Shifting Forms” closes the effort with another variation of such guitar work, which is used as a basis for the song. These sinister parts have great flow, but also serve to unease the listener due to their spider-like nature as they crawl all over the note spectrum. Listen to “Bonecaster” below.
The demo’s production also works towards the its success. The all-encompassing nature of your album’s mix can either make or break your effort. Monumental metal landmarks are notoriously praised/flogged for their production, which has nothing to do with songwriting, musicianship, or ability. Think about how Metallica’s …And Justice For All is perpetually put on the hot plate, with advocators for either side arguing about whether or not they enjoy the original guitar tones or Jason Newsted’s lack of bass ― over thirty years after the album released. Anyways, my point is that the way your release sounds following its unveiling is just as important as the quality of your songs.
Demo 2018 features this beautifully-murky, resonant, and thick production that ultimately makes the release a thoroughly-enjoyable listen. In fact, the production actually tends to envelope Derek’s vocal performance, but I can only assume such came as intended.
My one qualm lies behind the release’s second track, “Whirlwind”. The number’s duration lasts for just over a minute, so the title led me to believe it would be some sort of creative instrumental, serving to break up the first and last tracks of the demo. However, “Whirlwind” plays no different than “Bonecaster” and “Shifting Forms”. The song in question falls flat as its time constrictions don’t allow for it to expand and develop like other traditional tracks. I would not have minded this factor if the song broke out into a swirling track with some creative guitar and drum work, however such isn’t true. The song isn’t inherently poor, but I would have liked to see the dedicated minute used in a more creative manner.
In summary, Demo 2018 proves that our Californian friends can dish out quality death metal no matter what name they operate under. I believe they were also heavily inspired by Tomb Mold’s recent success, as both bands extract lyrical themes from the fantastical worlds of video games and books (Azath’s creative direction falls in line with a string of fantasy books that fall under the name Malazan Book of the Fallen). I quite enjoy the injection of unorthodox themes such as these, as it keeps things fresh within the stagnant universe of death metal. If you haven’t, check out Ripped to Shreds, Draghkar, and Azath; if you like one, you’ll like all three.